If you’ve ever felt like you couldn’t compete with super models, read this:

I was all set to post a blog about fashion and the average author (some of you may think that’s an oxymoron) but last night I was at a talk that just blew me away, so I have to blog about that instead.

It was a self esteem workshop for the young girls at my church, and I must admit I only went because mothers were invited and I didn’t want my daughter to be the only one whose mother didn’t show.

I am so glad I went.

The statistics they told us were staggering. Did you know that only 2% of women worldwide feel beautiful? By the time girls hit 12 years old 57% of them hate their bodies. One in four 12 year old girls think they are fat.

I can’t remember all of the statistics because there were too many, but each one basically told the same story: Society relentlessly tells women that we are not good enough the way we are. We are subjected to an average of 3,000 adds a day. We will spend an average of three years (Three years!!) of our lives watching commercials, and all of us know what we see in those adds. We see perfect faces and bodies. The models not only don’t have flaws, they don’t have pores.

None of us can measure up to that. How can we help but feel bad about ourselves?

Oh here’s another scary fact. The average model 30 years ago was 5’8 and 132 pounds. Now the average model is 5’10 and 110 pounds. Hello, that’s concentration camp skinny. Should that really be the standard we weigh ourselves against?

Why do advertisers do it?

The theory they told us last night is that advertisers want us to feel bad about ourselves so that they can sell us the fix. If only we’d use their clothes, make up, hair products–whatever, then we’d be as beautiful as the models.

But here is the horrible secret: Even the models themselves aren’t as pretty as their pictures. (You can tell how worked up I am about all of this because of all the italics I’m putting in here.) The average cover of a beauty magazine costs 60,000 dollars to digitally fix and enhance. The pictures inside run about 5,000 each.

Watch this video from Dove, and see how the advertisers/magazines do it. Really. Watch it. You’ll never look at those photos in the same way again.

PS–I’ve just realized I can stop trying to be beautiful all together. I just need a good photoshop program.


  1. Melanie J
    September 18, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    I remember an epidsode of the Jetsons where the mom could put on a mask that looked just like her real face so she could talk on the video phone and not look a mess. Forget photoshop; I want the mask!

    Seriously, though, this is part of what makes me nervous to have a girl. I think it’s so much harder to raise girls than boys because of this very thing. The expectations are completely out of line with reality and there’s a lot of everyday beauty that never gets celebrated because of it.

    Good post.

  2. Asenath
    September 18, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    I made both of my roommates watch that video.
    Is it bad that I kind of want someone to do that to my face? I want to know what I would look like as a super model…

  3. Nerd Goddess
    September 18, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    I completely agree with that. I’d seen the video before, and it’s absolutely staggering.

    I’ve had low self-esteem for most of my life, and have hated my body and hated so much about myself. Thankfully for me, I’m now engaged to a man who loves me for who I am, and who makes a point to tell me every day how beautiful I am.

    And though it’s taking time, I’m believing him more and more every day.

  4. Janette Rallison
    September 18, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Wow, that made me get choked up! I for one am not going to allow beauty magazines in my house, and we don’t need extra TV stations either. The less my daughters see of those kinds of images the better. They are all beautiful!

  5. Annette Lyon
    September 18, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    I just got back from a trip to Finland, and one thing there really jumped out at me: the magazine covers weren’t touched up and airbrushed like they are here. Right next to a US Elle or whatever was the Finnish equivalent. At first, it was jarring to see shiny foreheads and wrinkles–I’m so used to the fake photos blasted at us. But after a few days of seeing them at the check-out stands, it was refreshing. The models on the covers were pretty, sure–but they were REAL. Something we can relate to.

    And yeah, I’m terrified about raising three girls. My oldest is on the cusp of the scary body image age. Crossing fingers as we enter the waters.

  6. JaredNGarrett
    September 18, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Nice Janette. Right on. Viva la revolucion!

  7. Shirley Bahlmann
    September 18, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    I really like what my husband, Bob, says about beautiful people. He says that 90 percent of a woman’s beauty is her smile.

  8. Kimberly
    September 18, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Brilliant post! This cultural conditioning has gone on for so long. I only hope I can help my daughter’s be strong enough to fight it.

    I guess that means I need to fight too, eh?

  9. Steelefamily
    September 18, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    I love your books and have all of my family reading them as well. Your blogs are great. I teach a mia maids class at church and will incorporate your latest blog info.

  10. Shari
    September 18, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Great post!

    That video was really interesting. I’d always heard about photoshopping, but had never seen them actually do it. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Asenath
    September 18, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    also…now do you understand part of why I miss Hawaii so much? I felt beautiful there. I felt beautiful as I was–no make up, not obsessing over my weight, not worrying about my hair. It was so refreshing. I was happy with myself as I truly was… and that’s something I don’t often experience.

  12. Lillian Syville
    September 18, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    It’s like in Scott Westerfeilds Books. The Girls in the future though that today’s super models were hideos compared to then when everyone was enhanced with surgury.

    I think that 110 pounds was very healthy during the holocaust. I think Girda Wiesman said she was eighty.

  13. tenacious d
    September 19, 2008 at 6:11 am

    Have you ever noticed how the lush, thick, long eyelashes in mascara commercials are digitally enhanced and/or false?

    Thanks for this post, Nettie.

  14. Jennifer
    September 19, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    I’ve seen that video before, but I still get choked up watching it. If it were just the prettying up that was done, it wouldn’t be so bad, but when they start stretching people’s necks and changing their face around, that’s when they’ve really crossed the line.

    I remember Marie Osmund saying once that she had a photo shoot when she was still pregnant, but they didn’t want her to be pregnant in the ad, so they made her skinny. Poof!

  15. Lynne's Somewhat Invented Life
    September 19, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    I have a photo on my blog which, admittedly looks skinnier than I am but I chose the one that looked the most like me–out of 150–some looked more skinny. Some looked like someone starved, living in a mental home. Anyway, it was an “it’s this or nothing,” decision.

    So, yesterday my sister and I went to lunch and she brought a copy of the photo and went on and on about how it DIDN’T look at ALL like me. Thanks, sis. By the time she left I was ready to either kill her or myself for being such a wanna be skinny fraud. Grr.

    I didn’t do my hair or make-up for the photo. In fact I took those pictures myself at about 9:00 at night after a lo-o-ong day. She didn’t say anything about my face or hair being realistic, just the non-thinness.

    So if you see me on the street you can say, “Hey, aren’t you that fat girl?” and I will say, “yes,” and we will all live happily ever after.

    And I will buy Dove products because they are keepin’ it real.

  16. Rebecca Talley
    September 20, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Very interesting. Our society is way too obsessed with physical beauty. I’ve tried to teach my girls that what’s inside is what matters.

  17. Anonymous
    September 21, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    I’ve worked in the fashion industry in magazines for a few years, and these statistics sound right on, if not underplayed. We need a new standard, new role models–girls who are strong and beautiful because they are healthy, passionate and happy. They’re out there, and if I become a mother, one of my big goals will be to find them, to celebrate them, and to make sure my kids know about the many, many ways to shine from the inside out.

    Thanks again for your fabulous post!

  18. Josi
    September 21, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    I just had my whole family watch that–we were all amazed! I watched another of the Dove ones where a commentator said “They can see beauty in the other girls, but still can’t see it in themselves.” So true! Great Post, Janette.

  19. Julie Wright
    September 22, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    wow! Just wow. I hope you don’t mind if I borrow that video and step up on my own soap box. Body image is something I deal with all the time. I stopped wearing makeup on a regular basis about five years ago just because I was tired and makeup takes time that I don’t have. I am pretty much down to lipstick and mascara for days when i go out. I’m okay with the no make-up but I still struggle with body image. Thank you for this post. My daughter and I just might go have a mommy daughter date to discuss this very thing.

  20. Anna
    September 22, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    O_o oh my gosh… i love me. haha! wow i just had a boost of self esteem. haha! i knew they were photoshoped but not THAT photoshopped. woooow. i am going to make my mom watch that video. >_< thanks janette!! for your advice!! ^_^

  21. joelle
    October 6, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    That video kind of made me feel how I felt about my first non-fiction piece that I sold to a big magazine. When it was done, I wasn’t really sure I’d written it and then six months later I got a national award statue in the mailbox for it… Kind of a weird feeling! The model must feel a bit like that when she sees the photo!

  22. joelle
    October 6, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    I have to leave another comment after reading everyone else’s. I have always been a naturally thin person, but a few years ago I had a very physical job and I was really, really fit. I am almost 5’10” and I weighed about 130 lbs…lots of muscle definition. Every time I went to my dad’s he would say, “You’re too thin. You need to gain weight!” I wasn’t trying to be thin, it was just my job. Anyway, I gained five or ten pounds after the job ended and now he always says “you look so much better now that you’ve gained weight.” He’s not very diplomatic, but I have to admit that he makes me feel good. When I was a kid, he told me over and over again how beautiful I was, even though I actually was a quite gawky, stringy, flat-haired (and flat-somewhere-else) kind of girl. It embarrassed me, but you know, I haven’t really had any body issues. So I’m here to tell you parents that even if it embarrasses your kids to no end, TELL them how good they look all the time. It will sink in.

  23. Danyelle Ferguson
    October 9, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    That is an incredible video! Thank you for sharing!

  24. Kellie Buckner
    November 2, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Janette, thanks for the video. I’d never thought about how I’m going to have to deal with these issues with my daughters. I had lots of body image problems (still do) growing up, but thankfully I have a husband who loves me and my body. Most of the time I like my body (as long as I’m not pregnant or recently delivered) but my face is still a source of self contention. I will admit to using photoshop to get rid of zits in my pictures.

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